MAKING AN IMPACT: Organization helps guide people from prisons to communities

Published: May. 17, 2023 at 5:18 AM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – In 2022, more than 4,500 people were released from Minnesota prisons, according to the state Department of Corrections. Their adjustment back to regular life isn’t always easy.

That’s where the Rochester nonprofit POISD comes in.

Nicole Jones is a mother of four living in Rochester.

“I have a 12-year-old girl, a 9-year-old boy, a 6-year-old boy, and a two-and-a-half-year-old girl.”

She and her family live happy, healthy lives, but it wasn’t always that way.

“My dad was not in the picture; he was in and out of jail throughout my entire life,” Jones said.

She had a troubled upbringing, went through the systems, and became addicted to drugs, a choice that ultimately changed her life.

“I went to jail for almost a month in my twenties.”

At the time, her kids were only one and three years old.

Jones added, “To feel so powerless and have no one alongside me, I didn’t even have phone time. I had no way to reach out to my children in any capacity, so it was really, really scary.”

The feeling of hope and recovery felt out of reach. Then, Nicole met Leslie Sutter.

“We support individuals and families who have been impacted by incarceration.”

Leslie Sutter, Founder and President, POISD

Sutter is the Founder and President of Parents of Incarcerated Sons and Daughters (POISD).

“Somebody coming out of prison is essentially starting over,” Sutter said. “We’re just trying to put different programs in place that are going to help people be successful and not end up back in the prison system.”

She started the Rochester nonprofit in 2020 while her son was behind bars.

“It was kind of an outlet for me to take the experience that I had and try to turn it around in a positive fashion and not only help my family, but help other families in the same situation,” Sutter said.

Her mission is to help those who have been in jail positively re-enter society, while also building safer communities.

Sutter added, “If somebody’s committed crimes, they need to be held accountable, but they also should have the ability to move forward and be successful in life and be contributing members to society and heal their families.”

“I am a true testimony that hiccups, that’s all they are; they’re hiccups in the road to greatness.”

Nicole Jones, Formerly Incarcerated Mother

Now, Jones is raising her family with her husband, she’s five years clean, and is a 2023 RCTC graduate with a criminal justice degree.

“I was on one side of the law and now I’m on the other side,” Jones said. “You mess up and you live, and you learn, and you become better human beings because of it.”

As the organization grows, Sutter hopes it can continue to bring people together and leave judgment behind.

“The more support that we have, the bigger impact we can have.”

“People can have a second chance at life.”

Nicole Jones, Formerly Incarcerated Mother

There are a number of programs POISD has put together for those impacted by incarceration, including financial literacy, intro to entrepreneurship, resume development, and more. The nonprofit recently held an event at SPARK Children’s Museum for families who have experienced incarceration to get together and bond.

None of these things would be possible without community and local business support.

To learn more about getting involved or donating to its mission, click here.